Lesson 4: Focus and Attentional Control from Quirky Kid on Vimeo.

  • Understand the different styles of focus
  • Develop a greater ability to recognise when a shift in focus style is required
  • Develop a link between focus and imagery and other aspects of performance psychology
  • Identify preferred individual styles of focus

Focus and attentional control is a complex area but very important when planning for long term sustained performance. It can be used in combination with other aspects of performance psychology, like imagery for example.

  • Participants are expected to improve their understanding of the focus spectrum by experimenting with different practical exercises requiring them to shift their focus styles.
  • Participants will develop skills to improve their ability to focus and apply their attention
  • Participants will develop a better understanding of the impact of the surrounding environment on their focus strategy.
  • Participants will develop better arousal control
  • Participants will increase their awareness of the relationship between focus styles and performance characteristics.

Rober Nideffer’s (1976) Theory of Attentional and Interpersonal Style can be a complex theory to teach to children and young people and so it is best done in a visual and dynamic fashion, drawing on the experiences of the participants themselves. Beginning with the exercises above will help participants have a real-time experience of focus and attention prior to examining the theory and will help to prime the important points for discussion. Review the quadrants as printed in the participant workbook with the whiteboard prepared for further elaboration and visual representation.Follow the points below to bring the theory to life and be accessible to the participants. It can be helpful to ask questions throughout which aim to examine automated processes and show where focus is also going automatically.Example Questions about automated processes:

  • How do you know where your hands when swimming if you can’t see them? If your coach is trying to help you change a part of your stroke where you can’t see your hands, how would you do this?
  • Someone is passing you the ball in a team sport and the you have to pass it on to another player. How do you throw or hit the ball exactly the right distance? If your coach told you to throw or hit further or shorter, how would you change what you are doing?
  • When you are in an orchestra you have to follow your own music as well as where everyone else is up to at the same time. How do you do that?

Draw up and name four sets of boxes on the whiteboard, as appears in the participants workbook.

  1. Choose individual participants to talk about the focus they use when engaged in the different aspects of their activity. Use the examples of differing pursuits available in the room when possible. If all the participants are engaged in the same or similar activities, bring in some examples from very different pursuits.
  2. Sequence in real time illustrating variety of focus in a very short period of time. For some pursuits your focus must switch quickly and constantly, for others it will remain relatively stable.
  3. Illustrate differences between pursuits where possible.
  • EG Field Hockey – scan the field, awareness of own and other players, awareness of play being engaged in. Prepare to receive the ball, make decision about how to play the ball, play the ball.
  • EG Playing in an orchestra – Hold your instrument ready, watch the conductor, begin playing, turn the page, wait whilst other instruments play, come in at the right moment.
  • EG Swimming – Warm up, move to the blacks, hold start position, dive, swim, turn, swim, finish.
  1. Introduce the lesson by eliciting discussion around what ‘Focus’ is. What does it mean to focus? When do we hear the word ‘focus’? Who might be telling us to focus? Why would we need to be focused when we are elite performers? What types of things might it be important for us to focus on?

  2. Read through page 61 ‘Focus!’. Discuss why it might be important to understand what specific type of focus is required for your performance area. How may this be different to just telling yourself to ‘concentrate’- how are these different?

  3. Read through the four different focus styles on page 62 and for each focus style, ask group members whether they utilise this focus style, when and how. Ask participants if they have ever used all four focus styles for their performance area, how did they choose a focus style and when was that focus style effective?

  4. Take participants through ‘Exploring your focus styles’ on pages 63-64. Help participants write in the focus styles needed for their performance area and identify when this focus style might be best utilised (eg. in rehearsal, at the beginning of the match, during their most difficult maneuver).

  5. Next, discuss with the group in what ways our focus might be disrupted? When might we lose our focus? Focus on the wrong thing? focus on too many things or not enough things? Is it hard/ easy to maintain our focus and what things might present challenges to our focus?

  6. Ask participants what impact a loss or change in focus may have on our performance- what things might this affect and what could the consequences be?

  7. Read through ‘Getting the right focus’ on page 65 with participants and then help participants through the working cartoon examples from page 66-68.

a) Rob cartoon: Rob is looking ‘Small and Narrow’ and is focused on the try line but

needs to switch on a ‘Far and Wide’s focus to assess what is happening around him. How might Rob know which focus to switch on? How might he know when to do this? What might have happened if Rob had switched his focus? Do any participants play football or a team sport? What style of focus would you use most? How would you know which focus style would be most helpful?

 b) Gabi cartoon: Gabi is using a ‘Far and Wide’ focus but needs to switch on a ‘Small and Narrow’ focus to concentrate on the conductor. How might Gabi know which focus to switch on? Do any participants play in a group situation in which a ‘Small and Narrow’ focus is necessary? What might Gabi have done differently if she had switched on this focus?

c) Jojo Cartoon: Jojo is using a ‘Working out the Big Stuff Inside’ focus but needs to switch on ‘The Small Stuff Inside’ focus to pay attention to where her feet are on the beam. Have participants ever had to use the ‘Small Stuff Inside’ focus? When? How? What might have happened to Jojo if she had shifted her focus?

8. Ask participants if any have had the experience of utilising a focus style of ‘The Small Stuff Inside’ when it would have been more helpful to use the ‘Working out the Big Stuff Inside’ focus style? What might have happened if they stuck to their original focus style of focusing on the small stuff inside? What happened when their focus shifted?

9. Generate discussion around how participants can plan which focus style they may need to utilise in their performance situation and what things might indicate that they need to shift their focus style?

10. Generate discussion around what might help participants choose and practice a focus style and plan for distraction eg. self talk, imagery, discussion with their coach, rehearsal.

  • http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/why-do-we-choke-under-pressure-its-all-about-perspective-20150518-gh4mam.html

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